Did App State prof find ‘psychology’s lost boy’?

“The grainy, black-and-white footage, filmed in 1919 and 1920, documents what has become a classic psychology experiment, described again and again in articles and books. The idea is that the baby [in the experiment] was conditioned to be afraid, instilled with a phobia of all things furry.

“The man in the tie is John Watson, the father of behaviorism, a foundational figure in psychology, a Johns Hopkins University researcher [whose] legacy is forever entwined with the baby nicknamed Little Albert.

“The real identity of that baby has long intrigued students of psychology. Who was he? What happened to him? Did Watson really saddle the poor kid with a lifelong terror of animals?…

“Watson burned his papers before his death, leaving the curious without much to go on. Then, in 2009, Hall Beck, a professor of psychology at Appalachian State University, published a paper that shed new light on the case….

“What [Beck and his fellow researchers] found cast an even darker shadow over Watson’s flawed, ethically dubious experiment. The history of psychology would need to be rewritten…. No one would be able to look at the film, or think about Little Albert, in quite the same way again.

“That is, unless Beck got it wrong….”

Mr. Dickey, we’re revoking your poetic license

“It was in sitting for the composition of this aluminum life mask [shown on the magazine’s cover] that poet James Dickey was temporarily blinded. Sculptor William Dunlap, artist in residence at Appalachian State University, was forming the plaster cast when calcium seeped through to Mr. Dickey’s eyes and produced an alkaline burn that scalded the corneas. The poet was raced from Boone, North Carolina, to Johnson City, Tennessee, for medical treatment that saved his vision.

“The experience, which left him sightless for several hours, contributed to the store of feeling from which the poet’s second novel [‘Alnilam’] proceeds.”

— From Esquire magazine, February 1976

“Esquire exaggerated the incident…. Dunlap immediately drove Dickey to the emergency room of the local hospital, where the attending physician allayed Dickey’s fears of blindness. Because Dickey continued to worry, however, Dunlap subsequently drove him to an eye clinic, which determined that his eyes had recovered….

“As with [his false claim of having diabetes] Dickey embellished his imagined blindness, using the uncertainty of his blurred vision…  to bring heightened attention to himself.”

— From “The One Voice of James Dickey: His Letters and Life, 1970-1997” (2005), edited with commentary by Gordon Van Ness